WILLIAM’S FUNERAL

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The final submission for UTAS Writing The Family History Saga, William’s Funeral is based on factual details. The narrative has been  constructed to tell the story of my great grandmother Lily Menz Morse  who was widowed when her husband died in a tragic mine accident at the same time Queen Victoria died,  William and Lily had 4 boys under 9 years of age and she was 8 months pregnant with her fifth child. he was born  in March 1901 and named for his father William Francis Samuel Morse.  My grandfather is the middle son, Percy  Morse. Lily was on her own as she was estranged from her family. Her formidable father  Abel Menz  felt she had married beneath station.   Able was a powerful man  in the Mount Franklin Shire, and Past President  and Councillor of the shire. I want  to believe that her 11 brothers stood by her at the time of her husband’s death although I have no evidence to support this. Her sons were named for her brothers. Annie and James Parker are her sister in-law and brother in-law.  Annie was William’s sister and both were witnesses at Lily and William’s  elopement. This is my narrative relating to William’s Funeral.William& Lily's headstone

Everything was black, even the moon hid from view. The soft rain[1] fell echoing her mood. Lily set in her rocking chair on the front porch.  Her belly rising and falling as the child kicked.  Wrapped in an old quilt, Lily’s tears flowed. William lay in the front room[2].  Her thoughts were about the boys and the new baby. The Colony was in mourning the death of the old Queen[3], but she mourned William.

She closed her eyes against the night and everything went black.

The smell of porridge tickled Lily’s nostrils before Otto woke her.                                            “Mumma, mumma are you all right?” Otto shook Lily. Awake for hours,  Otto made sure Percy and Harold ate breakfast and changed Bertie. He understood how hard today would be.  Otto’s ninth birthday was only two weeks away.  The eldest boy, he was the man of the family. .  Looking down at her skirt she smiled when she saw the grey lumpy hand-print.  Otto had made porridge to feed the boys. Now her clothes need changing, and the funeral was at 10.00am.  Pulling her watch out of her pocket, she noted there was enough time before Annie arrived.  Her brother and sister-in-law, had been so helpful. Annie had lent her a black bombazine dress to wear. Smiling she thought just as well she was thin and Annie wide, for the dress fitted her in her eighth month.  The boys would need help to dress, she couldn’t leave everything to Otto.

Lily adverted her eyes from crepe draped coffin. The essence of William didn’t exist in a wooden box, he lived in her heart and as long as she had the boys he would always be with her. Reverend Rogers[4] had sat with her last night and talked about the future. He’d talked to the Mine manager. There might make a small annuity available. The parish would help where possible. She thanked him for his kindness, but her insides curled up at the thought of accepting charity.

She dressed slowly, and before she knew it Annie arrived; breezing through the door like a breath of fresh air.  James following in her wake with several brown paper parcels in his arms.  Annie took immediate control; organising the boys and before she could blink, they were washed and changed. Shouts and giggles sounded as they cut the string and unwrapped the packages.  Five-year-old Percy ran into the room;

“See Mumma, new pants and shoes he pointed his foot. Auntie Annie has new pants and shoes for all of us, even Bertie.”

“Percy, come here and help me with Bertie,” Annie’s muffled voice called from the back room. Percy raced back and, the giggling continued.

Lily retreated to the porch, to her chair, unable to stay in the front room, she had tried but felt breathless. James carried a tea tray out and placing the tray on the table he handed Lily a mug of sweet tea.

“Where did all the food in the kitchen come from, Lily?

“From the neighbours, it’s a good spread for the Wake.”

James laughed, “Well that’s something. It appears Otto’s been cooking porridge. Somehow I don’t think you’ll be able to selvage the pot.”

Before Lily answered, the boys spilled out on to the porch. Annie followed, her pink cheeks glowing. The boys standing to attention, with two-year-old Bertie balanced on Percy’s hip. Bertie’s thumb remained jammed in his mouth.

Harold twisting and turning to show off his new clothes spied the two drays coming up the road.

“Mumma! Look Uncle Otto, Uncle Alex, Uncle Ernest, and oh just everybody!”

Lily looked up through the drizzling rain across the rail line to the church. Revered Rodgers’ trap was already there, push-bikes and drays crammed into the rear. The black draped dray pulled up out the front. The second dray loaded with men drove on to the house.

Otto drove the trap around the back. The rain stopped.  He dismounted and the six brothers walked together to the steps of the porch.

“Morning Lily, we’re here to take William to Chapel.”

Lilly nodded and her boys melted to her side, and they walked down the steps as her brothers entered the house. Standing three on either side of the coffin they raised it from the trestles. Turning, they carried the coffin from the room, out the door and down the steps. In the yard they stopped, shifted William’s coffin to their shoulders and linking arms underneath, they began the short walk to the Church. Lily followed. Annie and James closed in beside her, and with the boys they made the journey across the railway line to the church.

 

[1] 1901 ‘WEATHER FORECAST.’, The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 22 January, p. 1. , viewed 20 Aug 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article207027824

[2] Death Certificate of William Samuel Frances Morse, died 23 January 1901, Registrar of Birth, Deaths and Marriages, Victoria, 28251/1901

[3] 1901 ‘PUBLIC MOURNING’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 24 January, p. 10. , viewed 19 Aug 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article196061718

[4] https://victoriancollections.net.au/items/5ac5a60b21ea6b05947f8500

 

It is only a material possession

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ring 2

“On 6 October 1973 fighting erupted in the Middle East when Egyptian forces surged across the Suez Canal into Israel. Simultaneously Syrian troops attacked Israeli forces, in the Golan Heights, in what became known as the 1973 Arab-Israeli War or the Yom Kippur War. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 338 (22 October 1973) called for a ceasefire and a second resolution (340 of 25 October 1973) established the second United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF II), of 7,000 troops to oversee the cease fire and the return of the warring parties to their own territory. By the time fighting had ceased Israeli forces had crossed the Suez Canal, capturing a significant portion of Egyptian territory and were within striking distance of the capital Cairo.In early 1976 the Australian Government agreed to commit forces to UNEF II consisting of two army personnel serving in the UNEF II headquarters for a 12 month period and a 50 man detachment, from 5 Squadron RAAF, operating four UH-1H Iroquois helicopters for six month rotations. Included in the RAAF contingents during 1977 – 80 were RAN aircrew and aircraft maintainers…The Australian contingent was referred to as AUSTAIR and on 10 June 1976 a 16 man RAAF advance party left Australia for Egypt to set up the Australian facility at Ismailia on the western side of the Suez Canal.1 There was already a strong UNEF II presence here and the Canadian Armed Forces provided substantial assistance to establish the Australian force. ”  https://www.navy.gov.au/media-room/publications/semaphore-second-united-nations-emergency-force-naval-aviators-egypt-during

June 1976

As a service wife (RAAF) I had become used to saying goodbye to my husband as he was sent off on short term postings. We spent seven years in Canberra at RAAF  Base Fairbairn. My partner was a Rad Tech Air  in No 5 Squadron.  During that seven year period he was away more often than he was home.  Bush fires and floods required logistical support. Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin in 1974 he was in the first flight in to help with the clean up and search for survivors.  1975 he was in New Guinea during the transition to Independence.  During this time we had a second child, a boy, born in 1973.  Then in 1976  when   our son was about to turn three  and our daughters  sixth birthday my husband was posted to Ismailia as part of the United Nations Peace Keeping Forces.  It was  a six month posting.  Effectively at 26 I was a single mum with two small children.  In those days there was little support for RAAF wives when their partners were away on extended postings unlike the  Navy which had an excellent support service.  This was in the days where the only communication was  snail mail and ham radio, no computers in those days.   I vividly remember watching the Bathurst 1000 on TV and taped the commentary on to my cassette tape recorder and sending the tapes to Egypt  apparently they were shared over the forces radio and enjoyed by all. Morris and Fitzpatrick took out the honours in a Holden Torana.

chopper 5 sqmap

1977

In 1977 when my husband returned he bought me a gift   – it was a pair of ear 93651181_10222507267848686_8080133819484602368_nrings purchased at the Cairo Museum.  They are reputed to be a copy of a pair of earings worn by Cleopatra. The years passed and I wore these earings continuously rarely taking them out (pierced ears). I loved those earrings they were special. As time wore on eventually our  marriage broke down. It was no ones fault, it takes two to make a relationship work and we simply grew up and grew apart.  Eventually we parted company but those earrings remained a treasured belonging.  I continued wearing them night and day then  one day last week I went for a long walk and later that night I realised one earring was missing. I searched the house, stripped the bed, I know the earring was in place in the morning as I remember seeing it when I was brushing my hair.  It was one of those things, it was part of me, I wasn’t aware of it being there – but I was aware when it wasn’t there.  It would seem the clip had come loose and it had fallen out.  For  forty three years those earrings helped define who I was. Even though we divorced in 1984 they remained treasured objects.

I was upset that I had lost the earring, there was a monetary loss they were 24 cart gold and jade. There was the emotional tie, they were one of the few things that I had kept,  treasured possession from my first marriage. But then I reminded myself  that they were a material possession and at the end of the day that was that. I was sad as they were a memory of another lifetime – but I will always have those memories.  They were merely a possession, if you like a talisman.  The remaining earring is in my phone case I see it every time I use my phone. It seems I still have a great deal to learn about attachment and material possessions.

Perhaps loosing the earring was a sign to simply focus on the now and continue walking confidently into the future.  I have no regrets about the decisions I have made. I do not need to cling to the past. We are facing challenging times and the world will never be the same again post  Covid 19.   We need to focus on working towards a better future for us all. I look at my husband, my partner of the past 37 years and think about the wonderful years we have had together and pray that there are more wonderful years ahead of us.  Our grandson is facing his VCE year  and is unable to attend school. What does the future hold for him?  The loss of the earring is nothing more than the ripple in a pond and after all it is only a possession, a material item of no  consequence in real terms. Some one may find it, if so may it’s beauty bring them happiness or  it may simply have returned to the earth.

COVID 19 2020

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This entry  will  be used as a touchstone for further entries  It will serve as a reminder of how our world has changed and how we have moved into a dystopian nightmare – one we pray we awake from into a new normal.

The one bright shinning fact of this horrible time is that Mother Earth has begun a healing process.
The polluted canals of Venice are clean and swans and dolphins have been seen in the waters.  The magnificent Himalayas are visible form India for the first time in over 30 years.  Satellite photos show the dramatic fall in air pollution as major cities have shut down industries. Stories like these are flooding in from all parts of the globe Gaia is healing herself.

The truth of how this tragedy has occurred will never be made public, because even  as these words are typed, the Communist Chinese Government, is rewriting history and obscuring the facts  about how this virus has impacted on China itself.  Doctors and scientists are discredited and jailed for speaking out. The true  number of people infected will never be known, nor will the death toll. The satellite pictures speak for themselves.   Huge numbers of mass graves.

The enduring images that will remain forever are of the Wet Markets in Wuhan where  critically endangered animals are slaughtered and sold as delicacies. This practice has not ceased even though there is strong evidence to support claims that the disease has been transmitted through the eating of these products. The fact that the trade in these animals is deemed illegal seems to have no impact on the Chinese. The United Nations World Health Authority refuses to take steps to sanction China. An unforgettable image from the television coverage  was of a family of Uyghurs  (Wegas) being sealed into their homes the door way concreted shut with armed guards out side. The parents had the Covid 19 virus and their children were sealed inside with them.  It is a high probability these people starved to death. This is shows how little Australia’s major trading partner values the lives of minority groups or those who oppose it’s rule.

This terrible virus has spread world wide claiming many hundreds of thousands  of lives. Europe especially Italy and Spain have been hit hard.  In Spain many Aged Care facilities were abandoned and there were news reports of the old and infirm dying in their beds with no care, no help, their only release being death.  The USA with President Trump in charge is facing a massive death toll – New York City is a ghost town there simply are not enough medical staff, ventilators and protective equipment to cope with the onslaught of this disease. Yesterday the whole of the USA all 50 states is under declaration of a national emergency.

Australia had the opportunity as an island nation to act swiftly and close our borders but the Prime Minister  vacillated and ran the Scott Morrison Road show instead.  We are a Commonwealth of States.  But this emergency has shown that we are unable to come together as an single entity.  The State Premiers cannot agree to act cohesively  – each one wanting to put their own stamp on histories page.  Is this because the PM is too weak to be seen to lead us safely through this unprecedented crisis or has ego simply been the stumbling block?  The lack of leadership from Mr Morrison has been horrendous.  Broad ambiguous guidelines left open ended  for the Sates to interpret.  It is possible that the political nous behind this is  ” If it goes wrong it is not the Commonwealths fault.. It is up to the States to implement and manage the strategies”   Surely this a time to act in a united capacity, bipartisan  and  for the benefit of all Australians.

Currently in NSW the Police Commissioner is saying that the NRL can start playing rugby on a particular date without the  input of  the State’s Health Minister.  Where did the Police Commissioner get his medical degree?   These proposed actions are going against the advice of the  senior health officials who are respected experts in this field. Currently they also seem to reached this decision with out the NSW’s Premiers input.

It is like a French farce each State enacting differing rules …it is irresponsible  governance.  It is impossible to even attempt to imagine what it must be like to make the best decisions  for the health and welfare of our nation in this time of need…No one in their right mind would want to have this responsibility .  But this is the reality of government and it does not get much worse than this.

Travel is restricted through out Australia. Some states have reacted more forcibly than others. Only residents returning to their home state can cross patrolled borders, along with the exceptions of trucks carting supplies, essential workers etc.  Even returning residents from another state are being subjected to 14 days isolation.

The following was posted on Facebook

 Easter Monday, 13th April 2020 

Scott Morrison is the Prime Minister of Australia. Mark McGowan is the Premier of Western Australia. Australia has closed its borders to the world. Western Australia has closed its borders to the rest of Australia. Western Australians cannot travel between regions.

For almost three weeks, pubs, cinemas, restaurants, indoor sports have been closed. Concerts, festivals, sports, weddings have been cancelled. Churches are closed. Only 10 people can attend funerals.

Petrol price is less than $1 per litre – in the cities. Panic buying means there’s no toilet paper, disinfecting supplies or hand sanitiser on the shelves. Pasta, rice, flour, eggs, mince, canned tomatoes have been in limited supply. Supermarkets have restricted some products to one or two per shopper. Tape on the floors at shops to help distance shoppers (1.5m) from each other. Limited number of people inside shops, therefore lineups outside the doors. Non-essential shops and businesses starting to close.

Office workers are working from home. Schools closed and children are to be schooled at home. Easter holidays must be spent at home. All non-essential travel banned. Fines are established for breaking the rules. Police patrolling the streets and beaches.

Shortage of masks, gowns, gloves for our front-line workers. Shortage of ventilators for the critically ill. Manufacturers, distilleries and other businesses switch their lines to help make visors, masks, hand sanitiser and PPE. Arenas open up for the overflow of Covid-19 patients.

Children’s playgrounds are closed. We are to distance from each other. Press conferences daily from the government. The government throws money at businesses to try to keep the economy from imploding. Grants and loans. Some governments to pay 80% of employees wages where businesses cannot continue to do so. Daily updates on new cases and deaths.

Barely anyone on the roads. People wearing masks and gloves outside. Essential key workers are terrified to go to work. Medical field workers are afraid to go home to their families.

This is the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic, declared March 11th, 2020.

Why, you ask, did I write this status? One day it will show up in my memory feed, and it will be a yearly reminder that life is precious and not to take the things we dearly love for granted.” 

The big question is …

WHAT LEARNINGS  DO WE TAKE AWAY FROM THIS EXPERIENCE?

STAY SAFE

Writing Prompt week 2

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Week 2 Its been a rough week and I could not find words to fit the prompt until my friend’s funeral yesterday, then suddenly the words were there, I have taken  a little literary licence  —– but not much …..The prompt  words were  List  Motionless Fish  Green Taste of lemonPauls funeral 742020

The shopping list lies forgotten on the desk.

The screen flashes …Paul has gone…

My mind shuts down

My hand motionless on the key pad

Gone where…I type the words…have you two had a fight ?

That seems impossible…then the words appear

GONE FOREVER..Dead…

An eternity has past…forward ten days

The screen is filled with images of verdant green lawn

Ten people only allowed …social distancing enforced

Centre stage… a coffin of polished wood and brass fittings

Paul is in that coffin

I am 1000’s of miles away…watching

No more yarns about the one that was so big..the fish that got away

No more silly text messages

No more lemon in everything … for taste of course

No more funny face photo bombing

The last words I said were … shut up you silly bastard…

There is a breeze and the sun is shining

We can’t hear the celebrant’s voice

No muffler on the mike and the sound keeps breaking up

Suddenly it is over … slowly the coffin is lowered into the grave

Fly high dear friend … you lived life to the full …enjoy the true taste of freedom…for you are no longer bound by earthly constraints

I will miss you

You mad Irish git…Erin go Braugh

ELOI OR MORLOCK?

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Rant alert — Do you want to become an Eloi to our Morlock masters? I don’t know about how anyone else feels but I am reaching the point of emotional exhaustion. I want to turn away, to turn it off, I have blocked posts show extreme trauma to animals, I know what is happening. Like a kid at a horror movie I want to close my eyes but I am more frightened of what I will find when I reopen them.

I am tired of empty promises by politicians seeking photo ops. I see the haunted expressions of Andrew Crisp and Shane Fitzsimmons on the News reports. The reports are coming to life about the callous lack of compassion being shown by some government agencies and their employees in their interpretation of how to distribute funding in relation to relief support payments,. What difference does it make if someone had emergency relief 24 years ago ?

People need help now and help is being withheld because of petty red tape. I don’t care if people are under insured or not insured they have lost their homes and livelihoods in some instances. I did not donate funds to be subjected to red tape. “We are there to support you every step of the way” more political empty words… We have an inherently corrupt government all parties, unfortunately the bad outweigh the good. To continue to deny the changes being caused to this planet by the most dangerous animal, mankind, is nothing short of suicidal hypocrisy.

Nature is throwing the biggest tantrum and we are not listening. No supreme being is going to SAVE us. We have created this situation and we have to fix it. Australians need to grow up political loyalties are no longer enough. Change is needed now . But how do we implement it?

IMO We should learn from our First people about caring for the land we should allow the cattle and brumbies into the high country to keep the fire loads from reach the proportions they have. Stop selling water rights. Stop selling our infrastructure to overseas agencies. Our farmers need to be educated to farm more sustainably to stop clearing and start replanting to cease using chemicals on the land. Cease making coal king follow the lead of many European countries. Use wind and solar power more. We need to eat sensibly and waste less food. We need to be less greedy and less materialistic. I know that sounds hollow when I am typing on a laptop, But buy an established home rather than in a new subdivision lessen your carbon footprint. Do you really need a new phone/car every 12 months? Whats wrong with shopping at an op shop ? Reduce reuse recycle, Demand that food be sold in 100% recyclable containers/wrappers. Simply make better choices; and just maybe we can turn things around or will we end up being the Eloi or our Morlock masters?

A writing prompt

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The great behemoth broke the surface with a huge echoing sigh. Water spouted metres into the air. Rivulets of water ran like silver along the burnished skin and melted into the foam as it bubbled and swirled. Spy-hopping, her entire rostrum and head vertical and stationery in the water, she was still and silent. The large eyes taking in the carnage in the ocean surrounding her. She heard the soft brushing of the action of plastics brushing against one another bouncing on the waves. Sinking beneath the waves, she sighed again this time there was sadness in her heart. Breathing was harder and harder, she could no long dive as deep and for long periods of time. Her spiracles in her respiratory system had been compromised, every time she tried to dive deep, she felt the punch her lungs failing to fully expand. She knew her time had come. Once more she surfaced, the rhythmical waves of contractions gripping her, she forgot everything else as she focused and struggling to bring life into the world. With a final push her baby appeared and the surrounding waves stained chartreuse with birthing fluids. The baby surfaced beside her; she felt a surge of protection for this smaller version of herself. The baby sank below searching for the rich milk that would sustain its life in coming months. Mother and child bonded with sighs, and rumbles, floating on the surface she was distracted by an object above, she tensed, immediately alert to possible danger to the life she had birthed. She moved slowly watching and following the movements the object, which monitored her progress. The kite surfer floating above, stowed his camera safely before turning back into the shore. He was aware of the scientific import of the act he had witnessed and caught on film. He had stayed aloft far too long but it was worth it. Turning into the thermals he headed back to shore his breathing laboured as the pollution tortured his lungs. Watching his progress as he had watched hers, she sighed relieved that the possible danger had passed and she turned to clearing the bobbing plastic away from her child .

Today I Met A Man Who Wasn’t There

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Um excuse me.

Good morning how can I help you?

I need help.

Silence.

I have walked all day and night; I don’t know how long I have walked.

Silence.

I have walked from East Gippsland.

How?

Through the bush …fire…everything gone. Could I have a glass of water please?

The voice is soft, almost a whisper. A quietness surrounds him. I did not hear the door open. It is as if he had simply appeared in front of my desk in the reception area.

I look at the man standing before me.  A well-built man of indeterminate age, 60 plus, physically strong, thick grisly white hair and a beard, reeking of smoke. Green open necked linen shirt smoke soiled, trousers tucked into what look like fireman’s boots and a small leather pouch over his shoulder.  Shoulders stooped, eyes lowered and head bowed, he stands silent, still, before me.  He reminds me of a tree once strong, but now fragile, one that has been uprooted. I look at his hands, they are clasped in front of him, to conceal the trembling. Heavily tanned, his hands are roughened, strong hands with thick calloused fingers, they speak of years of manual labour, the veins standing out like cords and they are covered in singed white hair.

The room is warm, the air conditioner hums and he stands shivering. There is a wariness, a stillness in his posture that suggests fight or flight. He raises his head and for the first time I see his eyes. Red rimmed and clouded with tears, he has blue eyes. They say the eyes are the windows of the soul. Pain and anguish, look back at me. He lowers his gaze.  This is a person in shock. There is no sense of harm in him.

Of course, come with me through to the kitchen.  Would you like a coffee or a tea?

He sits at the table. His movements restrained quiet and measured. He nods. Accepting the glass of water, he downs the glass in one long drink.  Wiping the back of his hand across his mouth, he whispers,

Thank you.

I place the box of tissues strategically within reach and making him a cup of coffee, the biscuit barrel is close at hand.

Could I have more milk please I like milk in my coffee.

I leave the carton of milk on the table within reach

We sit in silence till he finishes his coffee.

What can we do to help you?   

The tears begin to show, he bites his lip, he is still shaking.

Can we call someone for you, a friend a relative?

I don’t have anyone; I don’t have anything anymore. It’s all gone. My home, my animals it’s all gone, I am frightened of the bush now.

You are welcome to stay here for a while. Can I call the Sallies? They will be able to help you.

N0, I have to get back, I will get the bus to Melbourne.

Do you have any money?

A little.

Are you registered with the Red Cross or the Sallies?

No.

The tears continue and his voice is shaking, but remains no more than a whisper.

Do you have any other clothes?

No.

Everything is gone.  It is all gone.

I am so sorry.

No-one’s fault.

Can we help you with some toiletries, soap, a comb, tissues?

Head shakes

Is there anything we can do to help? Can I take you to the hospital for a check-up?

No.  No, I need to get back.

Can you wait here a minute while I see what I can arrange?

Silence.

Rising from the table I go outside to speak with our manager, to see if there is anything, we can offer this troubled man.

I walk back in to an empty room, looking down the passage I can see the front door closing.

He leaves as quietly as he came.

Racing down the corridor I open the door, he is walking away. I call out God Bless. Nodding his head, he continues walking toward the bus stop.

Today I saw first hand the impact  of the pain inflicted by bushfires.  I worry this man will get lost in the bustle of the city, that he will fall through the cracks and become a meaningless statistic. Clearly, he is traumatised, a victim of the fires. I did my  best and sometimes it is not enough. Sadly, there is nothing more I can do for this man who wasn’t there, except hope he finds someone at the other end who can help him.

An Open Letter to Scott Morrison

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An Open Letter to Scott Morrison

Mr Morrison (I can no longer refer to you as Prime Minister) you are learning the hard way the difference between playing at being a leader in the bubble of Parliament and in the glow of the world stage.

However, when it comes to the real world dealing with a catastrophe of unprecedented magnitude, you have fallen at the first fence. If those not privy to think tank briefings could see what was happening, surely you could too. Or are the advisors you have chosen (at huge expense to the Australian public) too scared or stupid to tell you the truth.

When you were confronted at Cobargo an act of leadership would have been to ask the cameras to leave, and to sit down and ask what the people needed, not to turn your back and walk away to your car to be removed from the unpleasantness of the situation.

Instead of taking a token bag of supplies from Woolies, if you had gone in with a pallet of drinking water or a generator it would have been appreciated and seemed less like a photo opportunity. Ditch the white shirt and tie and wear an ordinary shirt and wind cheater, and please do not tell Australians you need their understanding in this time of crisis – the people you are talking to have lost everything – they are in shock . We are all in shock. It is your role to empathise and provide leadership not our job to make you feel better.

As an Australian I was and still am angry at your lack of leadership but then it occurred to me that this is the Peter principle in action. An example of someone promoted past their capacity to manage.

No one knows how this will end, but what we do know is we stand on the brink of a new decade, the Australia that will emerge from these fires will be a very different world. It isn’t going to take months or even years, Mr Morrison it will take lifetimes to recover.

At the age of 12 in 1939 my mother was caught in the fires in Mansfield in the high country. She saved herself and her young cousin by taking shelter under heavy woollen horse blankets in the dam on the property. For the rest of her life she was terrified of fire, hated the weight of anything heavy on her body and when she was dying found herself back in those fires. So yes, it will take lifetimes and some will never recover.

I feel sorry for you Mr Morrison, if you are unable to understand how and what is happening. Sack your speech writers and ditch the marketing, and speak to people from your heart. Stand up and be a leader do what you were elected to do or stand aside.

Linda Morse  (I will not be a quiet Australian)

Seaham Swamp Nature Reserve Port Stephens.

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Seaham Swamp Nature Reserve. Photo: John Spencer

https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/seaham-swamp-nature-reserve Photograph  John Spence 

Half a lifetime ago I stood on the ground at Seaham Swamp and took a  black and white photograph which combines the two elements of the featured photographs from the web page of the Seaham Swamp Nature Reserve.

Seaham is a suburb of the Port Stephens on the Williams River which flows into the Hunter River around 9 miles downstream from  Seaham village at Raymond Terrace  near Newcastle New South Wales.

The historic slab cottage known as Tom McLellan’s Cottage, or simply Tom’s Cottage. It is a stunning example of a typical colonial era rural dwelling. It was moved to its current location in the early 1900s. It is believed that although it is called  Tom’s Cottage, the dwelling was erected  as a  home for his mother, Mary McLellan.

The photo was taken on 40 years ago on May 12, 1979. Written on the rear of the photo in my hand in pencil is a date and place and the words Late Afternoon.  I have no remembrance of the setup as displayed on the webpage, but I do remember the peace and quiet; broken by the squeals of laughter of my two young children as they discovered a dragon fly  or a paw print hidden in the grasses.   We would have gone to the park on a family outing to get away from the dull, confining, fibro married quarters, Number 4 Shearman Avenue in Raymond Terrace.  Was the children’s father with us? Perhaps not. Brian was attached to 4 Flight Squadron and more often than not was away on a logistical assistance trip.

In those days I had aspirations of being a professional photographer, mostly streetscapes. industrial areas very few photos with people in them except for happy snaps.  I  have continued to take photographs of urban life and architectural scapes as well as nature photos.  This photo is one I have kept all these years as there is an intrinsic elemental appeal in the composition. It was over exposed and my developing techniques were not the best  but I love the photo and the memory that clings to it, A soft lazy autumn day, cool but not cold, no wind ruffling the surface of the water; with the sounds of bird calls wrapped around the sounds of children’s excited voices. But mostly of the soft sighing and creaking of the trees stranded in the swamp and the whisha whisha of the leaves.

If only the rocks and ground could speak they would utter such stories as we cannot begin to imagine.  This is one of my favourite places.

Seaham Swamp 12 May 1979

Late afternoon Seaham Swamp May 1979

The reserve lies within the area of the Worimi Local Aboriginal Land Council. In years gone by, it and the adjoining Williams River would have provided important resources to Aboriginal residents, such as waterfowl and fish. Looking at the reserve’s abundant melaleucas today, it’s fascinating to think those very trees would have delivered paperbark for cooking, while other barks may have been used for coolamons and other wooden implements.

The reserve protects Seaham Quarry, a historic site containing scientifically important sediments from ancient glacial thaw water. These sediments date back 90 -120 million years, and the quarry was dedicated for preservation in 1925 for scientific purposes. Check out the remarkable streaky rock and read the notice from Professor Edgeworth David, the pioneering geologist and explorer who first recognised the sediments’ glacigenic origin in 1914.

PERCY’S STORY – An Unremarkable Soldier  but a Remarkable Man

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2847 MORSE Private – Percival Norman    

6/24th Battalion    1st Australian Pioneer Battalion  1896 – 1988

                                             An Unremarkable Soldier  but a Remarkable Man

Percival Morse (Percy)[1] was born in 1896[2] in Maryborough. He grew up in the small hamlet of Campbells Creek, Victoria. By 1916 Percy 1

the town’s population had reached 896 persons[3].   By 1918 the town had sent 85 men to war, 9.5% of its adult population. Ten men were killed in action[4].  What drove these young and not so young men to enlist to fight in a war half way across the world?  This biographical essay will explore some of his experiences at home and at war and consider the impact on the man and his family.

Percy’s father died in a mine accident in 1901[5], and his mother, Lily Morse, raised five boys on her own.  Percy joined up one month and one week after his 19th birthday on July 13, 1915[6]. His file contains a letter of consent from his mother Lily Morse[7].

Figure 2 Letter of Consent from Lily Menz Morse  NAA

Percy 2

In June 1915 the Minister of Defense declared monthly recruitment targets of 5300 men. State based Parliamentary recruitment committees were active throughout their communities[8].   Were the Campbells Creek boys influenced by these meetings or was it the fact that Australian and New Zealand troops remained pinned down at Gallipoli[9]?

A video interview in September 1983 provides an insight into why Percy enlisted. The interview is between Grant Barlow, (grandson) and Percy Morse, it was conducted at his home, 33 Vida Street Essendon.  An abridged transcript follows;

Interviewer: … when you were talking about joining up for the war… You told me you were all standing around outside the boot shop one Sunday morning. Can you tell me that story again?

Percy Morse     Oh yes, hum the boys from the football team used to get around the little boot shop on Sunday morning… I suppose there were a dozen or 18 of us…someone says “I think I will go to the war.”  So another says, “I’ll be with you Jack”. It went on and on … any how we all arranged to go into Castlemaine … So any how a dozen or so of us all went away together.[10]

On Sunday July 11, 1915 the majority of the Campbells Creek Football Club, including their Best and Fairest Player[11], Percy Morse, travelled to Castlemaine to register and then proceeded to Melbourne for medical examinations. For most this would have been their first visit to Melbourne.

The group then moved on to the training camp at Broadmeadows where over a three -day period, July 13 -15, 1915 when their papers were formally signed.  This was followed by a short period of leave home. On the weekend of July 24, the community gathered for a celebratory farewell at the Fire Station[12]. The entire town turned out and the small hall was packed to overflowing. Once the speeches and musical interludes concluded, Mr. Ellis, head teacher of Campbells Creek’s small school, requested photographs and details of those enlisting to encourage the students to create an Honor Board[13] to remind them of the volunteers.                    

Percy 3

                                    

This hand lettered board remains proudly on display. It honors those past pupils who fought and returned, and those made the ultimate sacrifice.

There is little in Percy’s file to provide any detail about his first months in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF).  Initially he was assigned to 6th Reinforcements /24th Battalion, rank Private from July 28 to October 13, 1915.  On October 27 1915 he embarked from Melbourne aboard HMAT A38 Ulysses via Freemantle for Egypt. There are no personal letters to refer to, however a letter to the Geelong Advertiser 1914[14] describes the laborious process of embankment and details the daily regime of rising at 6:00am to lights out at 9:30pm. In a letter dated April 1915[15] from the Ulysses, an anonymous correspondent complains of “crook tucker.”   From both accounts it appears there was little distraction to alleviate the tedium of travel.

On arrival in Egypt on November 26, the group trained and drilled at Port Tewfik. On February 24 1916, they were taken on strength (TOS) to the 7th Battalion at Serapeum. After months of training changes came quickly. On March 5, Percy was then TOS with the new 1st Pioneers Battalion. By March 26.1916, they were proceeding to Alexandria on the Ballarat joining the British Expeditionary Forces (BEF). On Anzac Day in April 1916 they disembarked in Marseilles.[16]

Percy was TOS 2nd Tunlg Co on 3rd of July 1916. The Tunnelling Coy, was the spear head preparing trenches, the men often worked under enemy fire, building revetment, saps and laying cables and turning barns into accommodation barracks.  It was hard, dirty and dangerous work.  The Unit Diaries of the 2nd Tunlg. Co as per example shown below are difficult to decipher.[17]

Figure 4 Unit Diary 2nd Tunneling Company July 1916

percy 4

The entries in Percy’s papers are sparse, apart from notices of attachment and  spells in hospital;

  • August 1916 Hospital Bonneville France
  • September returned to Unit
  • October rejoins 1st Pioneers in Field France
  • May 5 1917 32nd Field Ambulance  to No 3 Casulty Clearing Station  no details on file
  • May 11 1917  no 5 General Hospital Rouen  In field
  • May 30 1917 Con Depot
  • August 21 1917          Transferred to Infirmary at Le Havre – no details
  • October 13-16   1917  Transfer and travel to Unit 1st Pioneers  – in field
  • January 3-19  1918      On leave to UK
  • January 19  1918           rejoined Unit 1st Pioneers
  • November 10-19 1918 On leave UK
  • Nov 20 1918                 rejoin Unit in Field
  • January 14 1919           Leave France for UK
  • March 28 1919             Embark City of Poona  for Australia
  • August 3rd 1919            Discharged [18]

Percy’s file is bare of information, no record of being absent without leave, no rule breaking, and no disputes with other ranks or serving soldiers. He does not rate a mention in the Unit Diaries of any of his attachments as far as it has been possible to discover. Like thousands of other unremarkable men, they went to fight in the great battles of the Western Front and survived as best they could.

Percy shouldered his responsibilities and was fortunate to return home physically unscathed. While serving at the front Percy had the additional concern for his younger brother Bertie who enlisted in 1917 and was TOS to the 3rd   Tunlg. Co.  Bertie was wounded twice and severely gassed[19].  Bertie returned home a Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) soldier, and died in 1940 as a result of war injuries[20]. A reasonable assumption is Percy felt responsible for his brother’s condition as he assumed the responsibility of caring for his widow and daughter.[21]

When Armistice was declared there were more celebrations in the Fire Station Hall in Campbells Creek[22]. In March another celebration was held as more men returned. The heroes were celebrated and the living were given a certificate of service from a graceful community[23]

What was the impact on Percy and his family?  Percy Morse rarely spoke about the war; Anzac Day was not celebrated. His medals were placed in a tobacco tin in his wardrobe. If he had any psychological issues, they were not obvious nor were they discussed. He and his wife were pacifists and joined the Communist Party of Australia. They endured the Great Depression and Sustenance Payments, he worked on the Great Ocean Road.  A proud and loving husband, he was heart-broken when his eldest son joined the RAAF in June 1943, the day after he turned 18[24].  His world had turned full circle.

Percy’s story is not unusual.  The Great War had a profound impression on those who served, their families and communities. They returned to a different world. Many returned broken physically and psychologically.  Families were left to mourn those who did not return. In May 1918, Wilfred Owen wrote;

My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity. Yet these elegies are to this generation in no sense consolatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is warn.[25]

 

Bibliography 

[1] Photography from Darley Collection 1916  AWM

[2] Birth Certificate Percival N Morse  Vic BDM 2153/1896 accessed  January 28, 1988

[3] VPARL 1917 No 32 https://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/papers/govpub/VPARL1917No32.pdf  accessed July17 2019

[4] Castlemaine Mail March 28 1918 page 4  Trove accessed March 12 1990

[5] Death Certificate William Morse  Vic BDM 1058/1901  Victorian BDM accessed August 08 2019

[6] Attestation papers Percival Norman Morse accessed National Archives  Australia October 23 2013

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid

[9] WW1 Timeline State Library of New South Wales accessed July 26 2019

[10] Barlow Family Home Video Chapter 2 Copy in possession of author

[11] Best and Fairest medal 1915  – family heirloom

[12] Mount Alexander Mail Thursday July 29 1915, p2  Trove accessed January 22 2016

[13] Campbells Creek School No 128  Midland Highway  Campbells Creek Archives

[14] Geelong Advertiser Wed 9 December 1914 p 9  Trove accessed July 12 2019

[15] Leader -Orange NSW Friday 2 April 1915 page 8 Trove accessed July 12 2019

[16] Service Record Morse Percival William SN 2847  p5  National Archives Australia

[17] Unit  Diary weekly Mine Report 2nd Tunneling Company July 1917 https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/AWM4/ accessed June 2019

[18] Service records Morse Percival Norman  NAA

[19]  Service Record Morse Bertram  NAA

[20] Death Certificate  Bertram Morse Vic 2623/1940 BDM

[21] Stories from my Grandfather – author’s personal collection.

[22] Castlemaine Mail Monday January 28 1918 page 2 Trove April 2010

[23] Castlemaine Mail Monday March 25 1918 p4 trove accessed April 2010

[24] Service Documents Morse Norman Henry RAAF  Service Number 142520 National Archives Australia –retrieved  January 2015

[25] This Preface was found, in an unfinished condition, among Wilfred Owen’s papers.

The problems of caregiving …………….

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We speak often about caregiver burnout when dealing with loved ones who have dementia, but  there  is also a huge problem with staff burn out in care facilities.  Recently a staff member wrote that they  had  been kicked, punched, spat on and verbally abused. They stated they  were  not alone  and that like many others they would turn up day after day to work to care for those residents for whom they  had a feeling of responsibility. They spoke of how people were reluctant to believe a small  elderly lady or man could or would be capable of such actions  and that staff are expected to  cop this and bad attitudes of  relatives  on the chin.  A Charter of residents rights request that care staff be respected. and Staff are there to do a job  not to be treated poorly or ignored by relatives.

The following are my thoughts, a  comment on the  statement , because this employee feels abandoned by employers a target for relatives and a punching bag for distressed residents. 

Most caregivers and loved ones of those in care facilities understand exactly what the staff in these facilities are experiencing as many have experienced the same behaviours in their own homes. What we do not understand, and do not blame staff for, is lack of management concern, poor pay rates, poor initial training of workers and lack of appropriate ongoing professional development. If staffing levels and training was appropriate many episodes of disturbing behaviours can be controlled and minimized. UTI’s & URTI’s would be less frequent and if hydration levels are maintained all these factors reduce trigger points for behavioural issues. Many staff do not understand the differing requirements for various forms of dementia management. Again this is a training issue. Staff are not trained to work with patients who have lapsed into their native tongue because their short term memory is gone. Combine the loss of the ability to verbally communicate together with the various other symptoms of dementia and you have an explosive situation, and speaking loudly will only exacerbate the situation. There is no use placing a sign of toilet on the door if the person with dementia has lost the capacity to recognise what a toilet is. I could go on and on. Most of us do value the work you guys do and in being advocates for our loved ones we also advocate for more staff better training etc…To those staff who cared for my parents a huge thank you – believe me I understood your frustrations but did you understand mine when I provided training material in how best to manage a person with Lewy Body Dementia and your management saw fit either not to pass it on or you did not have adequate time to read it or the fact it was thrown out by the EN when cleaning out the Nurses station. Did you understand when I sat in the foyer for hours in order to see the centre manager who, because of cost cutting. had replaced my mother’s quiet oxygen concentrator with an older, hotter, noisier model without consultation. Because of my actions the the originals were replace and the ineffective older cheaper models were removed. Staff and loved ones hopefully want the same things. A safer, better equipped working place for you means a safer home for my loved one, Remember the facility is their home, they live there, staff work in their home. Everyone is entitled to be safe and treated with respect regardless of position staff or resident. Staff are not expendable we all depend on you. We have entrusted to your care the most precious people in our lives at the most vulnerable period of their life.